“Snowbird” is a word most people aren’t familiar with, but it’s quite popular among retirees. As temperatures dip throughout the U.S, many seniors lean towards the snowbird lifestyle, trading in their snowy, cold climates for the warmth of sunnier regions.

Becoming a snowbird in retirement means embracing a new lifestyle. It’s more than a vacation and therefore requires proper planning and preparation. We’ll cover some essential tips for how to become a snowbird. But first, why snowbirding?

What Is a Snowbird, and Why Is It Attractive to Retirees?

A snowbird refers to someone who chooses to migrate from a colder region to the warmer climes of the South during winter. Just like the birds. 

The snowbird lifestyle is desirable to sun-seeking retirees who are tired of the harsh winters in the North. Migrating to a snowbird destination means they don’t have to worry about shoveling snow, driving on icy roads, or bundling up during winter.

Many retirees also adopt this lifestyle for health reasons. Exposure to cold weather increases the risk of heart attack in seniors, especially those with pre-existing conditions. Moving to a warmer climate reduces this risk. And besides, some sunshine is always good for the soul. 

Outdoor enthusiasts often choose this lifestyle because it allows them to enjoy the outdoor activities they love for longer. If you’re a golfer, biker, hiker, runner, etc, snowbirding would allow you to continue year-round.

All of this sounds pretty good, right? However, snowbirding in retirement is not something you jump into feet first. It would be best to keep a few things in mind before deciding. Here are our top 7 considerations for anyone interested in a snowbird lifestyle.

What to Consider When Preparing for the Snowbird Lifestyle

1. Pick a Place That Matches Your Day-To-Day Living

Being a snowbird means spending 3-4 winter months in a different destination—essentially a second home. That means your snowbird destination should be somewhere you feel comfortable carrying out your normal activities. 

When picking a place, evaluate the level of access to day-to-day amenities like grocery stores, parks or walking paths, cultural activities, libraries, an airport, and healthcare resources. If you’re an active person who likes to have fun, naturally you’ll want to go where you can try out different activities, mingle with others, and generally live like usual.

2. Calculate the Costs Carefully

Snowbirding doesn’t come without its costs—and housing is one of the biggest ones. If you plan to purchase a second home, you need to look beyond the mortgage. Consider the costs of taxes, insurance, and home improvements.

Other snowbird housing options include RV parks, condos, single-family homes, apartments, and lifestyle communities. Estimate the costs, and pick the one best suited to your finances.

Besides housing, costs may include fuel, furnishings, upkeep, and travel back and forth to your other home. However you decide to become a snowbird, the best way to enjoy it is to consider the costs involved and prepare for it. 

3. Remember Your Taxes

While preparing for snowbirding, be sure to look into the tax status of the state you plan to live in. Some states are tax-friendly for retirees, while others may have high property or income taxes. It’s crucial to research the state’s residence, property, and estate tax rules beforehand so you’re not caught off-guard.

4. Decide Which Home Would Be Your Primary Residence

Becoming a snowbird means living in two different places. Over time, you may find it more convenient to own a home in your snowbird location than to rent. If you end up spending more time in the warmer climate, it may be advantageous to establish residency there. 

However, for tax purposes, you can only have one primary residence at a time. Before making your snowbird state your primary home, investigate the state’s rules. Plus, consider other factors such as your U.S postal service address, voter’s card address, and bank and car registrations. You may also need to spend a certain number of days in that state before you become a resident, so look into that as well. 

5. Maintain Your Winter Home

Since you’ll be spending quite some time away, it’s essential to prep your primary home for the winter. For peace of mind and to prevent disaster from happening while you’re away, consider the following:

  • Find someone to check in on your home (pick up mail, water plants, etc.)
  • Unplug all appliances, including the refrigerator, before leaving
  • Shut the water off to prevent your pipes from freezing over
  • Install a home security system
  • Make arrangements for landscaping or snow removal if needed

6. Check Your Medical Coverage

Be sure to check on your medical coverage before you embark on your snowbird adventure. If you’re 65 and older and enrolled in Medicare, you’d be covered in any state, which obviously gives you more freedom. 

If you’re under 65, however, or you have commercial health insurance, check your insurance health policy to find out the terms of your coverage. It’s important to understand how your medical insurance works and plan to pay any out-of-pocket medical expenses you might incur while snowbirding.

7. Plan to Make New Friends 

Adopting a snowbird lifestyle means being distant from your friends and family at home for long periods. As a retiree, having friends around you prevents social isolation and loneliness. Studies show that social isolation in older people poses health risks, such as high blood pressure, obesity, a weakened immune system, and depression. 

Fortunately, you can find other people like yourself in a snowbirding community. So make an effort to socialize and get to know your neighbors. If making new friends in retirement sounds intimidating, check out our top 10 tips.

Additional Tips for the International Snowbird

Are you considering an abroad destination for snowbirding? America isn’t the only place where you can enjoy an active lifestyle and a longer warm season. Some top destinations for retirees include Mexico, Portugal, Costa Rica, Panama, and Spain. 

For any country you decide to visit or reside in, research the visa options to find out how long you can stay in the country and how to earn residency. Countries like Spain have tax breaks, property rights, and other perks for retirees, but of course there are some hoops you’ll have to jump through.

Also, note that living in a different country is not the same as vacationing there. We recommend you try visiting for an extended period, say three months or more, to see if the country of your choice is really the right place for you.

Start Planning for Your Retirement Lifestyle

While you’re working on building the retirement lifestyle of your dreams, don’t lose sight of the financial picture. To become a snowbird in retirement, you must start saving for it early. 

Working with the right financial advisor can help you set your financial goals on track and prepare you for a snowbird lifestyle. They consider your current financial situation, tax implications, and retirement lifestyle goals. All so you can enjoy a life of retirement without stress.

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